Barcelona is known worldwide for its beauty. The buildings are colorful and decorative, and the street is full of living art. People dress as statues while musicians play. Just outside the city lie beautiful beaches and mountains. Although Barcelona is part of Spain, its culture stems from its Catalonian roots. Catalonia has its own language and is working on a referendum to become its own autonomous nation.
What to expect
If you stick to the touristy areas of Barcelona, most people speak English. Once we ventured out of said touristy areas, people spoke Catalan rather than Spanish. We went to dinner with a friend and met some of his friends, who told us they use English as much as they do Spanish (both rarely).
Barcelona’s summer are hot and sunny–the perfect beach weather. Heat and humidity peak in August, and the city reaches temperatures of around 95 F, 34 C. Winter months cool down, somewhat, dropping to as low as 53 F, 12 C. Rain and overcast days are more common in this season, but by no means are they regular.
We explored Barcelona mostly on foot to take in the beauty of the city. The touristy barrios, or neighborhoods, are close enough together for a long walk. We didn’t notice how far we walked until we got home and felt how tired our feet were.
Barcelona also has a large metro and bus system that connects most of the city. A single ticket is €2.15. We preferred walking to taking the metro in Barcelona. There were stations that were close together, but not connected, so often our directions would recommend leaving a station to walk to a new one, which doubled the cost of the journey. Once you reach Las Ramblas, quite a few of Barcelona’s famous sites like Casa Batlló, Plaça Reial, and La Boquería are within walking distance.
Things to do
Las Ramblas is one of the most popular streets in Barcelona, featuring wide sidewalks, flower stands, and outdoor cafes. This is also one of the most touristy areas of Barcelona, and while the cafes are packed, they’re packed with tourists and overpriced food. Walk down this street for the experience, then walk farther away to find delicious, budget-friendly food options.
This restaurant-packed square is right off of Las Ramblas. During the day, markets selling everything from handmade jewelry to ancient coins pop up. During the night, people sit in restaurants watching street performers, and some of Barcelona’s most popular clubs open their doors. From Plaça Reial, head into Barceona’s gothic district to see the Picaso Museum and the Barcelona Cathedral.
Also just off of Las Ramblas is the covered market, La Boqueria. Here you’ll find traditional market items, such as fruits, veggies, and meats alongside prepared foods, such as paella, empanadas, and salads. The atmosphere is lively and completely packed with people following their stomachs from vendor to vendor. Grab a fresh fruit juice from one of the vendors for just €1 while you search for a snack.
Just past Las Ramblas and the Plaça Catalunya is the Passegi de Graçia. This area is the modern home to some of Barcelona’s more upscale shopping and to some of architect Antoni Gaudi’s most famous homes, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. Stop by and admire his work, inside (for a fee) and out (for free).
This is widely-considered Gaudi’s masterpiece, and rightfully-so. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it completed, as construction will not finish until 2026. It’s one of Europe’s largest cathedrals, and it uses stained glass to play up the lights and colors of nature.
Currently, visitors can go up two towers: the passion tower and the nativity tower. Prior to our visit, we read that the nativity tower has a mountain view, while the passion tower has a city view, that can be obstructed by the continued construction on the cathedral. We chose the completed nativity tower. We found that despite what we read, this tower has a stunning view of the city, the mountains, and the ocean. Be sure to book this in advance. We didn’t book until three days before we visited and 90% of the time slots were taken, even past peak season.
Another one of Gaudi’s works, this park is full of colorful, eye-catching mosaics. Even on a rainy day, this park was packed with visitors. Although it was formerly a public park, it now costs €7 to get up-close and personal with the monument. If you’re sticking to a budget, walk around the public areas to get a decent view of the park.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
This museum holds an impressive collection of Romanesque and Catalan art. The building itself was built in 1924 to house the collection. Spend a day in the museum and the surrounding area, which is full of interesting sites like the Plaça Espanya, large parks, and the old Olympic stadium.
Just south of Las Rambalas is the city’s urban beach area. While it’s not the most beautiful beach in the area of Barcelona, if you’re staying in the city center and don’t want to spend a lot of money on transportation, this is a good option. Walk down the beach to find some of Barcelona’s largest and most expensive clubs.
Eat your weight in tapas
Walk a few feet off the tourist path to find inexpensive tapas joints. Our friend took us to a restaurant just a short walk from the beach. The six of us had a massive dinner and drinks for only €11 each. Some traditional, can’t-miss tapas are: bread spread with tomato, patatas bravas, Spanish omelette, meatballs, and squid.